by Jodi Panayotov
The historical bayside township of Cleveland owes much of its character to an incident in 1850 when visiting NSW Governor George Gipps stepped off a boat to survey the fledgling free settlement and sunk waist deep in mud. Had the tide been in, Cleveland would now be the bustling main port of Brisbane rather than the visit-worthy oldest settlement on Moreton Bay.
With its cache of well-preserved heritage buildings, original timber lighthouse, 162 year old pub, slick museum, historical homestead and quaint town centre it has plenty of attractions to fill a day and more.
And whether arriving by car or train most of the sights are easily accessible from Cleveland Station where the Visitors Info centre is located, with the town centre itself across the road.
Inland a few blocks from the train centre D L Coffee and Tea, a funky coffee roastery and tea house is a great place to start the day otherwise grab a coffee or tea in town at Jeppo Gelato, master of both.
The best way to take in the sights of Cleveland is via the Cleveland Heritage Walk (about 4km) which starts about 1.5km from the station on the waterfront at GJ Walter Park. (For those without a car buses leave from out front of the station and run at regular intervals to this spot):
This walk meanders past gorgeous heritage listed buildings from the mid nineteenth century onwards including the landmark Grand Hotel, Queensland's very first licensed pub, whose first storey was built in 1851 and whose neighbour is Queensland's oldest banyan tree, the old Cleveland Hotel c1860, St Paul's church c1873, the old courthouse and jail c1849 (now a restaurant overlooking the water) and the old school house, now an art gallery.
At Cleveland Point is the old wooden light house, built in 1864 as only one few left in Queensland and here, at the halfway point of the walk, is the fantastic old 1930's building incorporating the Lighthouse Café – an idyllic spot to sit with a bucket of prawns and a beer with a view to Stradbroke Island and the waters of the bay lapping at the ground. There's also a seafood restaurant inside or a fish'n'chips kiosk for takeaway to the nearby park.
Back in the town centre, whose main street Bloomfield St is dotted with artworks by local artists and which hosts the Cleveland Farmers markets on Saturday mornings, Jeppo Gelato does arguably the best gelato to be found anywhere and quaint little vintage and handmade boutique Willow and Fox is well worth a visit. And on the intersection with Middle St the Redland Art Gallery has an ever changing stash of local and touring artworks.
For unbeatable value fish'n'chips head for local fave Samson Fish Seafood overlooking Raby Bay harbour (a few minutes walk west of the station) and if time permits, a visit to the impressive Redland Museum is worth setting aside time for. And if eating dinner while watching the moon rise over Stradbroke Island from the deck at the Lighthouse or the Courthouse appeals, the Grand View has a couple of guest rooms upstairs that have hosted visitors since the 1880's.
On Sundays nearby Ormiston House, part of the area's first sugar plantation and one time home to the father of Queensland's sugar industry Louis Hope, is open to the public for tours and Devonshire teas.